Once again I become a sea bear. This time my people go on a cruise around the United Kingdom. Yes, it is still big, this Britain. Who knows if we will soon be talking about the Divided Kingdom of small Britain without Northern Ireland?
The starting point of our journey was Bremerhaven. Why do we write this place with V, when port in German is right written with F? Maybe one of you can explain that. But no matter what kind of harbor, our ship could dock there. Well then, ship ahoy – God Save the Queen.
Our first destination in the British Isles was Southampton. While my human mum wanted to visit London, I was, together with my dad, in one of the most important places of the former British Empire, Portsmouth. This port city was, for centuries, the most important fleet and power base of England. Those who ruled the seas ruled the world. Until the First World War, known here in England as the Great War, this was Britain.
In memory of the great Empire, Portsmouth houses an impressive collection of maritime exhibits in the Royal Navy Dockyards. But we already had our first interesting lessons learned on the way there. We as foreigners pronounced the name of the place as [ˈpôrtsmaʊθ]. A friendly lady of the British Railway pointed out to us that the British say [ˈpôrtsməTH]. So we had quickly learned something that did not immediately sign us as ignorant tourists.
In Portsmouth itself, of course, there was no holding for my human dad. He was so excited! we wanted to visit the oldest completely preserved warship in the world, the HMS Victory. You have known my photographer and hobby historian for a while now and know that everything that has to do with war history is of great interest to him, especially naval battles.
There it was: the most famous battleship in world history. 227 feet (69.3 m) long, 167 feet (51 m) high from keel to masthead and originally equipped with 104 cannons. Ships like the Victory were at their time, from the middle of the 18th to far into the 19th century, the super combat machines par excellence. The most impressive thing about them is that they were built entirely of wood. At this size, what wonders of technology!
Of course you all know that the Victory was Lord Nelson’s flagship in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson’s overwhelming victory over the united Spanish-French fleet not only secured the supremacy of Her Majesty’s fleet on the world’s oceans for more than 100 years. The success off Cape Trafalgar also laid the foundation for Britain’s rise to world power. The great British Empire would not have been possible without Trafalgar. In the entire history of England and Britain there is probably no single event of greater national importance. The contemporary witnesses were already aware of this, as can be seen from the extraordinary honour of the funeral of Lord Nelson in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
In addition to the Victory, there is another well-known battleship, the HMS Warrior. She did not fight a big battle. But in the middle of the 19th century it represented the basic pattern for the transition from wooden sailing ships to steam-powered steel ships. With the construction of the Warrior, the large fleets of battleships such as the Victory were outdated in one fell swoop.
Before returning to our port, we followed the waterline promenade for a few miles. Also this led us past further historical landmarks. Everything started again with Admiral Nelson, this time on a pedestal. Right next to him there is the Royal Garrison Church to admire. Its nave was destroyed during a German bombing raid in 1941. The remaining part of the church is still used today for worship, but above all for remembering the horrors of war. The monument for the British fallen soldiers and the exhibition to D-Day conclude the way.
I and my human dad really liked Portsmouth. If you ever come to the south of England, the city is worth a visit.
Your very ferocious Grizzly